THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 656, February 5, 2012
"It's always been a police state...you just never noticed."
Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
A couple of weeks ago, someone wrote into the TLE with an interesting problem. They were having difficulty deciding what protection a Libertarian system would offer someone in the event that they pushed another person out of the way of a falling piano, since this 'push' is technically assault, and the 'victim' could claim reparations. There was the further complication that any protection offered to those who 'pushed you out of the way of a falling piano' would also likely protect busy-body do-gooders who pass laws or otherwise meddle in people's lives, 'for their own good'. [See "Libertarian Law: Competence and the Common Defense" by DataPacRat]
Now, it seems to me that this is a soluble problem, by several means:
1. Under a Libertarian system, one of the purposes of 'reparations' for a crime is to restore the victim to THAT STATE WHICH HE WOULD HAVE BEEN IN had the crime never occured. In the case of someone with a piano falling towards them, the 'falling piano' came first, the 'push' came second. This being the case, if someone demands 'reparations' for being pushed out the way of a falling piano, they most certainly are entitled to it, but in chronological order, and there will be no half measures about it: Being restored to the state you would have been in, means EXACTLY that.
This being the case, the FIRST thing that will happen, after they demand such a thing, is that a piano will be dropped on their heads. Anyone still able to demand compensation for being pushed, after that, is certainly entitled to it.
This also partially takes care of the 'meddling for your own good' individuals. Such things as helmet laws are not passed, nor suddenly observed, when a motorcyclist is in the midst of an iminent accident. The theoretical accident, if it occurs at all, occurs AFTER the helmet laws, so it could not plausibly be part of any reparations for disliked helmet laws, to demand that those not wanting to wear helmets be forced to undergo a helmetless motorcycle accident.
2. The 'meddling for your own good' individuals are also taken care of in that any unwanted intervention in someone's life, even IF it is for their own good, must stop immediately upon an individual's *informed demand* that it stop. Ei, suppose there is a large bomb in my house, that will go off in 10 minutes. You come into my house, and drag me out, under the assumption that I would not want to be in my house when the bomb goes off. I object to this dragging, and you explain your reasons (there is a bomb in my house). If I then elect to stay in my house and get blown to bits, you have no further right to drag me out.
L. Neil Smith and I had an interesting discussion a while back on a similiar problem, the 'Curmudgeon Problem'. This discussion originated from a situation I was in, in which my cat was trapped in a neighbor's garage. It was a good thing I found the cat when I did, and the neighbor was able to open their garage, as they were leaving later that day on a vacation. I mentioned to L. Neil that if my neighbor had already left, I would probably have had to break into the garage through the window to get my cat, and then paid for the window when the neighbor returned.
L. Neil said, and this is probably true, that a curmudgeonly person would have the right to shoot me, for breaking and entering on their property, even for what I, or even most people, might consider to be a 'reasonable excuse'. However, although one has the right to behave in an obnoxious fashion, if you are technically within your rights, there are certain consequences to this. If you demand 'reparations' for being pushed out of the way of a falling piano, then those 'reparations' must logically include a piano being dropped on your head. Likewise, if you prosecute or shoot someone who comes onto your property to rescue their trapped cat, do not expect, thereafter, for ANYONE to step one foot onto your property, and intervene, just because your house is on fire, or they see you collapse with a heart attack in your yard after raking leaves. Why should they do that, and risk being shot or charged with trespassing? To demand such intervention when it pleases you, is just as much a violation of the rights of others, as the person trespassing on your property , even to rescue their cat, is a violation of your rights, it is a demand that you have ownership of the time, feelings, and bodies of others, or that other people become your slaves under whatever circumstances you demand.
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